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Not So Grand: Discrimination at the Hotels

In their heyday, the grand hotels catered to fashionable upper-class tourists who sought exclusivity, ambiance, indoor and outdoor entertainments, and the chance to be seen and admired.  Guests of other ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds therefore, were not welcome to mix with the wealthy, white, Christian guests who frequented the hotels.

Many of us look back with nostalgia on the former Grand Hotel era, and there is certainly much to celebrate. That said, there are also pervasive stories of ethnic, racial, religious, and social discrimination as part of the hotels’ culture. What today we might find shocking, at the time and even into the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, such behaviors would have been considered to be ‘part of our way of life in the Live Free or Die State.’

Vincent Lunetta

An undated article in the Salem Observer (which published between 1823 and 1919) reported the following visit by Mr. Gangooly to the Glen House:

Mr. Gangooly, the converted Brahmin, now on a visit to this country to observe the workings of Christianity under free institutions, happened along at the Glen House in the White Mountains, the other day, and was there refused entertainment on account of the dark color of his skin! … He may have thought there was no ‘caste’ prejudice in India worse than the color-phobia of the Glen House.

Undated article. Salem Observer.

This was not an isolated incidence, even later in the 20th century. In the 1920s and 30s, grand resorts that discriminated against Jews were common. These hotels were known as “restricted” hotels. When a person with a Jewish sounding last name tried to book a room, they were told that the hotel was full.

The Wentworth Hotel in Jackson was one such “restricted” hotel, which did not allow Jewish guests while owned by Marshall Wentworth. When Nathan Amster, a wealthy Jewish business man from New York, tried to check in and was turned away, he subsequently purchased the hotel and changed the policy so that only Jewish guests were welcome.

The Maplewood Club, which organized in 1923, was similarly unwelcoming to Jewish members with a membership that was “entirely Gentile.” Their club brochure states:

Maplewood appeals to patrons with cultivated tastes who prefer refinement to ostentation and extravagance, no tubercular or other person against whom there is a reasonable moral, social, or physical objection being admitted. As a summer resort for congenial persons, the genuinely courteous atmosphere gives one the impression of being a guest in a most delightful home where daily pleasures may be molded to conform with one’s own desires.

Maplewood Club brochure, circa 1923. Courtesy of Vincent Lunetta.
Maplewood Hotel. Museum of the White Mountains, Newton collection

If you have a personal story about racism and discrimination at the grand hotels, share it with us by emailing